Leave No Trace – Movie Review
‘Leave No Trace,’ a film based on the novel ‘My Abandonment’ by Peter Rock, which was written from a 2004 article in ‘The Oregonian’ about a girl discovered to be living in Forest Park with her father, is about a troubled veteran living illegally on public land in Portland, Oregon with his young daughter. As members of the human race, we must vow to protect this world. A member of the Armed Forces takes the ‘Oath of Enlistment,’ which states they will, Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
However, and unfortunately, what they’ve been finding when they get out of the service are promises made to them, broken without shame. Chief among those promises include that they are taken care of. Our service members are committing suicide at a rate of twenty-two per day. When they come back to their families, they’re not the same people they were when they were last home and with a VA and health care system unable to properly understand their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, they often feel alone, shattered, powerless and scared.
In ‘Leave No Trace,’ a drama filled with analogies and parallels for what the human race can do to help one another and save itself, we find that we’d get a lot of assistance from nature, as well, if we’d only be willing to let it. Director Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) shows us many examples of this ideology being embraced by her main character, Will (Foster). Will and his daughter Tom (McKenzie) are living off the grid, on their own and surviving just fine without societies rules being imposed on them. Granik’s methodology is to start her story by taking us through their daily chores of collecting water, eggs, and mushrooms and Will teaching Tom to cover her tracks and other techniques he learned in the military.
He’s aware she can’t miss out on a proper education and teaches her everything he learned in school but living off the land is giving her a scholarship we’d all be lucky to receive. She’s being trained how to respect, properly use, appreciate and give back to the earth. Currently, they’re living in a massive park but due to a mistake made by Tom, they’re spotted.
They’re removed right away and once tested, it’s deemed Will is well enough to give his daughter a proper home. He must also put her into school to be suitably socialized. The state helps him and sets them up with a small home working on a Christmas Tree farm where he is to work to pay for rent. Immediately, he feels like a bear trapped in a cage and grows restless.
At this stage in the narrative, we’re already wondering how they’ve reached this point in their lives, especially when Tom meets a youngster her age and makes what might be her first friend. She seems so delighted and you instinctively feel happy for her, yet at the same time are heartbroken for Will. The balancing act going on at in the story keeps you highly absorbed and perplexed at the same time. You rightly empathize with their situation but Granik purposefully shoots the chopping down of beautiful budding trees and your state of mind can’t help but be manipulated by the display. This is not the schooling Will wants for Tom and not how he’s capable of living so he wakes her in the middle of the night and they’re off. She wanted to stay but as before, he can’t live under ‘their’ rules. They head north and into a situation neither are prepared for.
What comes next in their journey is uncommon, moving and impactful. Granik is spectacular at giving us the opportunity to get to know these characters and explore their world while at the same time subliminally slipping in the significance, or perhaps forewarning, that it’s our world, too.
I highly recommend this for a theatre watch as does Rotten Tomatoes, who has it ‘Certified Fresh’ with a rating of 100%.
Official Website: http://www.leavenotrace.movie/
Leave No Trace - Movie Review
Summary Directed by: Debra Granik Written by: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (screenplay) Peter Rock (Novel) Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie and Dale Dickey Rated: PG Run Time: 1h 49min